The simplicity of stage nineteen appealed to me. From the start in yesterday’s finish town of Lleida, the roads rolled uneventfully into Andorra and to the foot of the climb of the Col de la Rabassa.
From there the finish line sat seventeen kilometres up the road at a height of two thousand metres.
In profile, and for the benefit of any maths fans, the route resembled an exponential curve; starting flat, gradually rising, before peaking dramatically at the end.
Prior to the stage I detected a growing swell of support for Alejandro Valverde to win this Vuelta ahead of Simon Yates. With his wily race craft he would pinch time here and there over the final two mountain stages, suggested the perceived wisdom.
Wisdom compounded, perhaps, by memories of Yates’ utter collapse on stage nineteen of the Giro d’Italia earlier in the year. Until he wins a Grand Tour, he carries that particularly painful monkey on his back.
It’s a good job he’s a sixty-kilo skinny bloke, is all I can say.
In the final kilometres of the climb today he took matters into his own hands. He grasped that monkey, had a few choice words with it, before dispatching it coldly and calmly. He essentially murdered a monkey.
A metaphorical monkey, but a monkey nonetheless.
He may be about to earn the epithet of “Grand Tour Winner…” but it may come with a caveat of “…and ruthless monkey killer.”Embed from Getty Images
When he attacked, so far from the summit, he had Thibaut Pinot and Steven Kruijswijk to bridge across to – willing working companions both. Kruijswijk hunting time to leap back on to the podium, Pinot looking for a second stage win.
The three of them pounded their way up the Rabassa – Pinot and Yates looking imperiously strong, with Kruijswijk hanging on a touch towards the top. When Kruijswijk did crack, the two rattled on to the summit where Pinot got his win and Yates took an almighty stride towards overall victory at this Vuelta.
Alejandro Valverde, his challenger, was more than a minute further down the mountain, and looking every bit his thirty-eight years – slightly laboured and wrestling with his bike.
The monkey, we assume, received a respectful roadside burial from a caring fan.